Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/30/police_and_rights/

Euro police data plan attacks 'fundamental rights'

EDPS slates police data sharing proposals, again

By Mark Ballard

Posted in Law, 30th April 2007 15:05 GMT

A proposal to allow European police forces to share data undermines fundamental human rights, the European Data Protection Supervisor said today.

The European Council's proposal to extend data protection into police and judicial matters was designed to ensure first that police managed their data properly so that they could then share it between forces.

But the European Data Protection Supervisor said the German Presidency had "significantly weakened" the proposal's protections so it could get the European Council to accept it.

Thus it would achieve the opposite of what it set out to do: it would make police co-operation harder and citizens more vulnerable, the EDPS said in an opinion (pdf) today.

"The EDPS is well aware of the difficulties in reaching unanimity in the council. However, the decision making procedure cannot justify the lowest common denominator approach that would hinder the fundamental rights of EU citizens as well as hamper the efficiency of law enforcement," it said.

As the proposal would leave member states to impose their own law, sharing between states would become "inefficient and unworkable". For example, shared records would be populated with data collated from different forces that operated under different standards - there might be no way of knowing how well data from another force could be trusted, nor how well it would be looked after when it was given away.

The directive appears to try and escape the likely confusion that might evolve from such a hodge-podge of intelligence by removing the basic data protections that would necessitate it being managed properly in the first place.

For example, it dropped the proposal that countries be prevented from sharing data with others that don't have adequate data protection. The principle that would ensure the quality of police data has also been dropped, meaning there is no obligation on them to distinguish the level of accuracy and reliability of the intelligence being used, nor distinguish between different sorts of data subject such as criminals, suspects, victims and witnesses.

Further, it removed the limitations normally put on the uses to which data can be put, and that any derogations from this rule should be "necessary, proportionate, precise and foreseeable".

Then there was no measure to periodically purge the databases of duff and redundant data and no obligation on the police to rectify any mistakes in the data they hold.

The EDPS doesn't describe just what might go wrong if rules were not in place to ensure police data was managed properly, but the situation looks topsy-turvy: the whole point of the legislation was to ensure that protection was there so the data could be shared.®